Lewisham is having to prioritise which fly-tipping it investigates due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a 50 per cent increase in reports, according to the cabinet lead for environment.

A motion to launch a new approach to tackle fly-tipping was passed by Lewisham Council at the last full council on February 26.

Plans include a review of what it would cost to provide community tips, which would make it much easier for people to dispose of their rubbish.

The move was in response to figures published in January which showed that fly-tipping incidences have shot up by 50 per cent in the last six years, from 714,631 in 2012/13 to 1,072,431 in 2018/19.

In a public question ahead of full council on Wednesday (October 21), resident Katherine Bishop asked what measures the council is taking to deter the criminal behaviour. 

“The rubbish on streets in the area has got worse over the last year- not only are the roads swept less often, large items are being dumped on streets and left for weeks on end so more fly-tipped rubbish piles up.  

“This situation brings down the area and is a real cause of stress for residents,” she said.  

Ms Bishop suggested using money from fines issued as a result of the low traffic neighbourhood road closures to put in cameras and signs in fly-tipping hotspots.  

“I’ve lived in four London boroughs in the last 20 years and have never seen anything so bad- hopefully the council can leverage information from its peers who have also experienced issues with fly tipping,” she added.  

The cabinet member for environment and transport, Cllr Sophie McGeevor, said the council “takes fly-tipping very seriously”.  

She said the council’s cleansing enforcement team, which looks into fly-tipping and is responsible for putting in preventative and detection measures, is investigating 50 per cent more reports than would usually be received. 

This is “putting a huge strain on the resources that the team has”, Cllr McGeevor said.  

“Covid-19 measures further increase that strain. Due to the above the team is having to heavily prioritise the investigations it carries out.  

“The team deploys CCTV to assist with catching offenders, but this can only be deployed at the worst hotspots due to it being a limited resource.  

“Preventative signage is also used, but this also cannot be deployed everywhere and is placed at many well-established hotspots,” she said.  

The enforcement team also sends out educational literature in the immediate vicinity of fly-tipping hotspots, which also urges witnesses to come forward.  

Culprits are hit with an on-the-spot fine of £400 if they are caught, which Cllr McGeevor said the team is issuing “week in week out to fly-tippers”.  

The council has issued 111 such fines in the past year and looks to prosecute the most serious cases – the maximum sentence is an unlimited fine and up to five years imprisonment.   

Cllr McGeevor said that over the next six to 12 months the council is doing a review of how it manages streets “from street cleansing, the collection of refuse and recycling and how we manage antisocial behaviour”.  

“Our intention is to provide effective, agile frontline services addressing the issues faced by our communities on a day to day basis, such as those you have raised,” she added.